The coronavirus outbreak and the challenges that lie ahead


Courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Illustration created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

When the coronavirus outbreak first made headlines worldwide, the tone around the disease almost felt like a joke. Not many people judged the severity of the situation correctly because the disease originated in Wuhan, China; how could something so far away possibly be a threat to us? However, after 100 days, the coronavirus has managed to spread to more than 90 countries, including the United States. So, let’s brush up on how we got to this point and determine how severe this pandemic really is. 

What is coronavirus?

Coronavirus is the name of a family of viruses. The one most relevant right now is called Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).

Previously referred to as the 2019 Novel Coronavirus, it is more commonly known in its abbreviated version, COVID-19, or just coronavirus. Since January 2020, it has spread worldwide, and the likelihood that someone near you, or even you yourself, contracting the virus just got higher. Coronavirus is extremely contagious, is killing a lot of people and is the worst outbreak we have seen in living memory

According to an interactive map of current global cases by Johns Hopkins University, there are more than a confirmed 190,000 cases of COVID-19 worldwide. Realistically, if this was a disease that was just affecting China, which was the case at first, it would not reach global news this quickly. 

How bad is COVID-19 compared to other outbreaks?

In 2003, the SARS epidemic, also caused by a coronavirus, infected 8,437 people and killed 813.

In 2012, there was another coronavirus epidemic caused by The Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), which infected 2,499 people and killed about 861. COVID-19 has already confirmed more than 100,000 cases. There are probably many more people infected that haven’t been tested due to mild symptoms, but thankfully, the mortality rate is low at 7% compared to the 10% rate of SARS and 35% rate of MERS.

Infographic made on PiktoChart by Ridwan Oyebamiji

An even bigger problem, compared to these other diseases, is that it’s taken COVID-19 a shorter time frame to infect more people. The sheer spread of COVID-19 compared to these other diseases is astounding. For example, we have had 100,000 cases of coronavirus in 53 days, whereas it took SARS eight months to infect 800 people. Furthermore, it took MERS a whole year to infect 200 people, so clearly, COVID-19 is showing a much more rapid rate of infection. It is also important to remember there is no certified vaccine for COVID-19 currently, making it difficult to combat.

What are the chances of contracting COVID-19?

This really depends on the country you live in due to the strength of that country’s healthcare system, but right now, we must be proactive about prevention rather than reactive. Basic measures can easily decrease your chance of contracting the virus, such as washing your hands frequently and thoroughly, avoiding touching your face, nose and eyes, avoiding close contact with other people and staying home if you are sick. Social distancing may be the most important factor in preventing the spread of COVID-19, which means avoiding large crowds as much as possible. Practicing these precautions can prevent the virus from spreading from one person to another.  

So, should we be worried?

Well, we can be worried, but we definitely shouldn’t panic. Rather than panicking, we should make sure that we are staying alert and informed about all findings regarding the virus and make sure you are doing your part in actively preventing the virus. The popular social media hashtag, #alertnotanxious, sums up how we should be reacting to COVID-19. The only reason COVID-19 has gotten this much attention is that the media has blown its severity out of proportion. However, do not ignore its existence; take precautions to keep yourself and those around you safe from the spread of COVID-19.

Is COVID-19 a major public health threat?

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